Valentine’s Day, or alternatively Saint Valentine’s Day or Feast of Saint Valentine, takes place every year on February 14th. As it is not a federal holiday, businesses and schools hold normal working hours.
For centuries, February has been known as the month of Romance, and on the 14th lovers participate in the exchange of special gifts between themselves, such as flowers, with the most popular being red roses, and chocolates, or even jewellery. The happy couples also take this day to go on romantic dates. There are many ideas for a date, such as watching a movie, usually a romcom, going out for dinner, as many restaurants have special offers on this day, or spending the night together at a hotel.
Many people also take the opportunity of this day to declare their affection for their crushes, often disguised as a secret admirer.
Who was St. Valentine?
While no one is sure of who the original Saint Valentine was, many believe that the character is created from a combination of Catholic Church saints and martyrs who lived in ancient Rome.
The most popular theories are of a Priest who lived in the 3rd century during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. Claudius outlawed marriage for young men, as he believed single men would perform better as soldiers, and it was harder for married men to join the army. However, Valentine continued to marry young men and women in secret and was sentenced to death by Emperor Claudius II for it. Another Valentine who may have lent his name to this holiday is one that was also killed in ancient Rome for helping prisoners escape prison. A prisoner himself, he is known for writing a card to his prison guard’s daughter, who visited him while he was incarcerated, declaring his love for her. He signed it “From your Valentine”, which is still the most popular way for people to sign their cards today.
Today, St. Valentine is the patron saint of love, lovers, couples, young people, travellers and greetings.
Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day?
This holiday has its origin on the Roman festival known as Lupercalia. Festivities happened in the middle of February and celebrated the arrival of spring and symbolic fertility rituals were performed. It is also believed that there was a lottery which paired men and women to be married in a celebration of love.
Trying to get this day away from its pagan meanings, in the 5th century, Pople Glausius I changed its name to St. Valentine’s. Officially, this day has been one that celebrates romance since the 14th century.
The background of Valentine’s Day traditions
The exchange of Valentine’s Day cards with declarations of love goes back to the 1500s, with people making their own handmade cards, often decorating them with ribbons and lace. In the late 1700s, romantic cards started being commercialized, and they usually depicted the image of the god of love, Cupid, and hearts, images that still prevail on this day, as symbols of Valentine’s day.
The Greeting Card Association estimates that in America, every year, around 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged.